Jazz fans have decided what they liked most about jazz in Ottawa-Gatineau in 2013, in The OttawaJazzScene.ca's Jazz Favourites Poll. These poll results are part of the complete report that OttawaJazzScene.ca is publishing this week.
Find out more about this poll and view all the results.

Why this poll ?

The idea for a “favourites” poll first arose as the end of 2013 approached and OttawaJazzScene.ca's editors started thinking about our annual year-end story. Ironically, it was the flurry of ongoing activity in the Ottawa-Gatineau jazz scene itself that kept us from starting on it earlier, as we were kept very busy reporting about the new 2014 performances and news.

Then, in March, OttawaJazzScene.ca was nominated for a 2013 Jazz Journalism Association (JJA) award for best short video (about Ottawa's Capital Youth Jazz Orchestra) – and again there was only one Canadian nominee.

We decided we wanted to do something to raise the profile of Canadian jazz and could start this in a modest way by running our own poll.

As an independent news site, we knew that we were uniquely placed to be able to run such a poll. Since OttawaJazzScene.ca is financially supported by donations from a wide range of jazz fans, we're not obligated to any one source and could run a fair and free poll.

...and how did we do it ?

Lurking in the back of our minds was the effort our 2011 Jazz Listeners Survey took. We were very satisfied with the participation and publication of that poll. But we knew that doing another one would mean putting aside other activities – like sleep. Indeed, it took 60 hours of work to research, design, implement, and test the survey before we announced it and invited your participation.

We incorporated what we learned from our 2011 poll and our past participation voting in the former Canadian National Jazz Awards, the annual JJA polls, and on-line Ekos and Probit polls. We tried to keep the poll to a reasonable length. (The average time to complete the favourites poll was 12 minutes, and the median time was 8 minutes.) We designed the poll so that participants could finish it in multiple visits if they wished, to allow them to think about their answers, or answer a few questions at a time.

Participants were allowed to split their vote between two nominees if they wished. We know from our own experience that it's often hard to choose just one favourite. We wanted to make the poll easier to complete and capture jazz fans' true feelings better.

A great deal of thought was given to the categories in the poll, and the objective thresholds by which nominees would be selected. This was not easy. But we wanted a poll that included all the Ottawa-Gatineau region and that, in general, set the bar higher, recognizing those who contributed the most to the scene and most satisfied jazz fans. We wanted to grow the scene and recognize successes.

We also wanted a poll that could be dynamic over time. (Some JJA awards have been given to a few musicians so many times that they have had to exclude their further eligibility.) Some nominees did not meet the qualification this year despite being associated with some great performances. But we'd like to think they could be nominees and favourites in the next poll by growing their own jazz offerings in 2014 to match the levels of others.

We wanted the poll to be as fair and as inclusive as possible. To meet those objectives, we required registration, in support of one vote per person. Our audit of registration info indicated this worked very well, with no voter fraud observed. Complementing this, the actual survey data collection itself was anonymous, to encourage broad participation and the most honest and detailed responses. Judging from the considerable numbers of extensive written comments we received, we believe this worked.

A non-random poll cannot statistically be extended to the whole population of jazz listeners – if that is even meaningful in a poll like this. Nevertheless, we tried to ensure the best results we could. We actively pursued the broadest participation we could, firstly by inviting the large number of subscribers of OttawaJazzScene.ca's weekly email newsletter. We also repeatedly notified our website visitors, twitter followers, and Facebook group members during the polling period.

Brett Delmage used Free/Libre Open Source Software to collect data responses and anyalyze the responses.
Brett Delmage used Free/Libre Open Source Software to collect data responses and anyalyze the responses.
Most importantly, we were careful to avoid selectively communicating to the followers of only some nominees. We didn't even mention the nominees in most of our poll advertising, but left that up to participants to discover in the poll. We were careful about our editorial coverage about nominees during the polling period, to avoid biasing responses. Ironically, we could not mention that our JJA nomination for the short form video award was about Capital Youth Jazz Orchestra (CYJO) during the polling period because they were one of the nominees.

An important part of this poll for us was helping respondents to learn more about nominees they did not know about. Links to more information (the nomineee's own website) were provided with their names on the ballot. This linked information could also be used by a respondent who wasn't sure about a nominee but wanted to check their memory. Perhaps they had only been to a venue once and really loved it, and wanted to confirm if that was the one they had been at.

Nominees were presented in random order to minimize selection bias. Of particular note, only 8% of participants answered only one category/question. Not everyone is likely familiar with every category (for example, many listeners may not be aware of and have an opinion of jazz camps), so some respondents answering only one or a few questions can be expected. But the vast majority of participants voted more broadly, answering an average of more than 5 questions.

Just like elections for political representatives, the ballot box (response database) was not opened until the poll had closed. This ensured our own reporting and actions during the polling period could not be unconsciously biased by any interim results we might have seen.

We also didn't vote in the poll ourselves: while we love many aspects of the local jazz scene, we wanted this to be the Ottawa-Gatineau jazz community's choices, not our own.

Tools we used

Free/Libre Open Source Software was used for the all parts of this project and worked very well. All our Internet servers and workstations run on the Ubuntu distribution of the Linux operating system.

Limesurvey was used for the web-based polling software. It's excellent survey software that is used by universities and epidemiologists. Because it is open-source, we were able to modify it to our exact needs for registration, poll re-entry and anonymous responses. We were also able to run it on our own secure server here in Ontario, keeping it away from the gap of legal protection and invasions of personal privacy that occur too frequently in the US.

Analysis was done using the mysql database and the Libreoffice and Apache OpenOffice spreadsheet software. Our report was written in the Libreoffice and OpenOffice word processors (as are almost all OttawaJazzScene.ca articles.)

We're delighted at the degree of involvement from all our respondents: the respectable voting turnout of more than 350 participants, the many interesting comments and the wide range of viewpoints expressed. We plan to continue this poll next year and beyond, and hope to build on this year's success.

Visit OttawaJazzScene.ca each day this week to see that day's favourites!

– Alayne McGregor and Brett Delmage

Do you have any comments about this poll or the favourites ? We invite you to share them in our Facebook group, or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Please refer to “The OttawaJazzScene.ca's Jazz Favourites Poll” when citing or linking to results. On twitter please use the #OttJazzFavs tag. Thank you.

OttawaJazzScene.ca is community supported. Our content, including projects like this, is made possible by our generous donors. We thank them for their support.